PFF24: Entertainment (Rick Alverson, USA)

In consecutively subverting convention, Rick Alverson has tacked his absurdist singularity onto his latest feature for better but mostly for worse. Entertainment follows bitter middle-aged comedian’s (Gregg Turkington) tour through the desolate American Southwest. Performing for almost no one in between failed attempts at reconciling with his estranged daughter, the man’s dwindling sense of purpose as loneliness silently crushes him becomes more oppressive on an increasingly bizarre journey from venue to venue.

Alverson’s follow up to 2012’s rather excellent The Comedy forgoes offbeat humor and incisiveness for something decidedly plodding and self-indulgent. In following The Comedian throughout a fruitless journey across abyssal landscapes, Entertainment struggles to combat the simplicity of its themes with increasingly surreal set pieces. It’s hard to imagine things going anywhere but up from the film’s opening prison sequence, yet this assumption is quickly squashed as Turkington’s squirm-inducing onscreen persona traipses to and fro, much to our mounting discomfort.

Entertainment isn’t entirely without merit as The Comedian’s live act remains unfailingly hilarious. These performances are an almost too-sharp departure from the film’s more startlingly abstract moments – of which disturbingly culminate in a rest stop restroom – but do enough to elevate what’s ostensibly a self-aggrandizing character study devoid of imitators to its own detriment. Whether this reads as either misguided or reductive, there’s no arguing that the film’s singularity is decidedly black-and-white in terms of accessibility and broad appeal.

Entertainment is worthy of note thanks to its acutely subversive personality and not much else. Its darkly comedic sensibilities remain effective as the dissection of The Comedian’s crumbling offstage existence remains more disconcerting than sympathetic in scope. Many may argue in favor of Alverson’s vision and the end result it’s yielded, yet Entertainment remains too hard to recommend to those not enamored with The Comedy or the divisive manner in which he fleshes out his films’ core subjective through lines.

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PFF24: My Schedule and Obligatory Hype Post

This year’s festival circuit has yielded quite the crop of talent. From reemerging masters to fledgling auteurs, this fall season has me itching to see what many already have. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers as I steadfastly compiled a list of what I’d most like to see at this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival, of which begins this Thursday with two back-to-back screenings of Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa. I’ll be attending the earlier of the two thanks to the convenience offered by my work schedule, and throughout the ten days that follow I’ll be seeing an additional fourteen films. Part of me is questioning my resolve in relation to the task at hand, then again I live here and am offered the luxury of being able to space these screenings out accordingly to much of my own excitement. I invite you to peruse my full schedule below as well as my list ranking of everything I’ve seen this year thus far here.

PFF24

My March & April ’13 in Review

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I assume “fashionably late” is out the window given today’s date in relation to this post’s title. As an excuse for the blog’s lack of diversity however, I’d like to offer the following statement: The past couple of months for me have been ones of undesirable but necessary change; ones of more lows than highs and, frankly, I’m entirely certain that my desire to view and critique contributions to the medium I’ll always love unconditionally has gotten me through. Put plainly: I love writing about film, and I’ll always love writing about film. It pains me to not contribute as regularly as I’d like to this blog for fear of not being diverse or edgy enough for you readers to appreciate. This aside, the following list contains the five best first-time viewings I’d gleefully endured throughout the months of March and April. Enjoy, and as always, feel free to comment in an effort to strike up a conversation!

Trance 2Trance (Danny Boyle, 2013)

With its narrative holding inanity in an unintentionally high regard, Trance is (thankfully) Boyle’s film – the script’s psychoanalytically-heavy imagery and frenetic crime thriller aura benefiting admirably from the director’s vision. Although sexually gratuitous silliness mars a pivotal latter act twist, an inexplicably gratifying reveal threw me for a welcome loop. Put plainly, it’s one of those obviously but negligibly flawed films you – or I – can’t help but liking despite its more affecting perplexities and shortcomings. Full review here.

BernieBernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)

A beguiling true crime story chronicling the build up to and verdict of the most peculiar murder trial in (quite possibly) US history, Bernie owes its likability to an inherently captivating central subject and performance. Linklater’s approach and sensitivity in handling the material shine as Bernie Tiede’s tale is recreated in an alternately tickling and questionably heartrending manner. One of the better films of its type in recent memory.

Oblivion 2Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski, 2013)

Although referred to as “tastefully derivative,” these conjoined terms are meant to function wholly as a compliment – Kosinski’s labor of love remaining a compelling piece of contemporary science fiction at frequent intervals. Recognizable inspirations aside, Oblivion‘s singular aural and visual aesthetics do wonders for the production, remaining immersive as the film concludes almost perfectly with a tastefully executed latter act; occasional narrative flimsiness becoming negligible as these events unfold. Full review here.

The ComedyThe Comedy (Rick Alverson, 2012)

A unique if readily unlikable endeavor, Rick Alverson’s The Comedy is purposefully and appealingly ballsy in its portrayal if a spoiled heir’s wild irresponsibility and increasingly irreverent behavioral pattern. Biding his time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with comparably detestable friends, the actions of these individuals and Tim Heidecker’s Swanson project their true nature flawlessly, prompting one to wonder at length just what type of generational statement about the seedier side of the human condition the film is trying to make. Confusion aside, The Comedy is – plain and simple – a unique and timely if polarizing character study.

Shotgun StoriesShotgun Stories (Jeff Nichols, 2007)

Focusing on a proverbial “blood feud” exacerbated by three sons’ exhibited disdain at their estranged father’s funeral, Shotgun Stories fully prides itself on alternating moments of mania and modesty. While not particularly audacious, Nichols’ assured direction and sensitive storytelling methods overcome discernible low budget restrictions to help mold an all-around involving production. From believable bouts of conflict and a well-to-do wraparound bit involving the titular Son (Michael Shannon) and film’s title (in part), Jeff Nichols’ debut feature is a good deal more than adequate compared to the likes of others.

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Other first-time viewings (in alphabetical order):

The Call (Anderson, ’13)
Evil Dead (Alvarez, ’13)
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Chu, ’13)
Maniac (Khalfoun, ’12)
Olympus Has Fallen (Fuqua, ’13)
Pain & Gain (Bay, ’13)
Sleepless Night (Jardin, ’11)
Stoker (Chan-wook, ’13)

Total number of films watched (including re-watches): 15